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For all the Saints…

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For all the Saints…

All Saints: what a day to start tending this little patch of website!  I love the saints – absolutely love them – and could rattle on about them until I die of perseverance.  I won’t, of course (rattle on, that is – I’d be quite happy to die of perseverance), but I do welcome the chance to spend a little time considering those ‘on whose intercession we rely for help’.

A couple of years ago, I spent much of November asking folk to name their favourite saint (in our home, it’s standard fare to be asked to declare ones favourite nursery rhyme, creepy-crawly or Tombliboo over breakfast and I suppose it’s contagious).

Mary and the Apostles were excluded from my game as, like the Bible and the works of Shakespeare on Desert Island Discs, they are ‘given’.  It was quite enlightening.  St. Francis of Assisi was someone’s favourite saint because of an amazing, lasting sense of peace received in the basilica at Assisi.  A saint who is famously lacking in historical evidence is someone’s favourite precisely because of the legends surrounding him.  One friend chose Ignatius of Antioch on account of the stirring letters he wrote on his way to martyrdom in Rome.  Many of those I asked were very fond of their namesake.  Some had stuck with a particular saint after a pilgrimage to the shrine or birthplace.

In short, I gained a beautiful insight into my friends’ and relations’ saintly heroes and caught a glimpse of the relationships they have with their favourite saints.  I recommend this game as a fascinating way to spend November…and more insightful than a Myers-Briggs personality test! Like so many others in this country, my thoughts recently have been particularly focussed on the Marmite saint, Thérèse of Lisieux.  Marmite?  Yes – you either love it or you don’t… and until about ten years ago, I didn’t.  But, it seems, conversion is possible.

Poor Thérèse has been hijacked by some fairly sugary hagiographers and sculpters over the years but if you look at what she actually wrote, you’re in for a treat. Suffering from tuberculosis, it was painfully clear to Thérèse that her death was close at hand but she wasn’t looking forward to Eternal Rest.  Rather, she longed for Eternal Life, ‘to spend my heaven doing good upon Earth’.  She really was desperate to intercede for all eternity – and she is just one among the communion of saints in light.

So in November, let’s throw down the gauntlet by asking them to work for us: to storm heaven on our behalf and to try as hard as they can to pull us heavenwards.  Join me – they’ll love the challenge.

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